QUEENSLAND researchers are about to take a major step closer towards proving the safety of the only known effective treatment for preventing human disease with Hendra virus once a person has been exposed.
Queensland Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, New South Wales Minister for Primary Industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, and Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, John McVeigh, have announced a $1.2 million grant to fund a clinical trial of a human monoclonal antibody capable of neutralising Hendra virus.
"This world-first trial will test the monoclonal antibody in a small group of people for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range and identify any side effects," Mr Springborg said.
"There are many organisations involved in Hendra virus research and treatment as it's a problem that knows no borders.
"This is a collaboration between groups in Queensland, NSW and the United States to develop a new medicine that could save lives in the event of a Hendra virus incident in Australia.
"Funding for the trial was drawn from $9 million provided for Hendra virus research from the Queensland, NSW and Commonwealth governments National Hendra Virus Research Program, which all contributed $3 million each for Hendra virus research.
"The Commonwealth Government also provided a separate $400,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant to the University of Queensland."
Ms Hodgkinson said this research was a significant step forward in combating a deadly virus.
"This work is globally significant and, along with advancements in horse vaccine development, is critical in our future control strategies," Ms Hodgkinson said.
The antibody for the trial was developed through a long-standing association between Queensland Health and the laboratories of Professor Christopher Broder of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Dr Dimiter Dimitrov of the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health in the United States.
AIBN Director Professor Peter Gray said the monoclonal antibody to be used in the trial - known as m102.4 - was classified as a biologic medicine and was manufactured at the AIBN's National Biologics Facility using specialised cell factories developed by US collaborators, and a production process developed at AIBN.
"Biologics are medicines based on natural proteins made using recombinant DNA technology with the potential to target medical conditions for which there are no other treatments," Professor Gray said.
"It is important to understand that monoclonal antibody therapy is not a vaccine for the general population, but a treatment which is expected to improve a person's chance of survival should they have come into contact with the Hendra virus.
"The Phase I clinical trial is planned for early 2014 upon approval from a Human Research Ethics Committee and in compliance with National Health and Medical Research Council guidelines.
"The United States is also interested in the results of the clinical trial as Hendra virus is similar to the Nipah virus which can cause death and severe illness in people and animals. Nipah virus is regularly found in humans in Bangladesh and India."